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Cowan Keeps Alive Bid to Make Open

P.J. Cowan has played a lot of golf in his life, and he's

only 33.

He has twice shot 59, won a Nike Tour event in 1996, won the New York State

Open three times. But yesterday, he shot a 69 and called it the best round of

his life.

"And I'll tell you why," Cowan said as he stood outside the clubhouse of

Fox Hill Country Club. "One, because the conditions were so difficult and the

course is difficult. Two, because it's a chance to play in the Open at

Bethpage. That makes it terrifically special."

Cowan's 3-under-par round led the Long Island Local Qualifying for the U.S.

Open on the Black Course at Bethpage next month. There were 10 spots available

to advance to the June 3 sectional qualifier in Westchester at Century Country

Club and Brae Burn Country Club. Cowan, who grew up in Hicksville but plays a

lot of golf in Florida, decided to try qualifying on Long Island rather than

down south because he knew the conditions would be tougher here.

"When you play down in Florida, it's just a birdie fest," Cowan said.

"Tough conditions play into the strength of my game, so I wanted to qualify

here because I knew it would be tough. Plus the sectional qualifier will have

24 spots available to advance to the Open because a lot of Tour guys are

playing in it. The more spots available, the better chance I have."

The wind was howling at Fox Hill yesterday, though it died down later in

the afternoon. Cowan had one of the early afternoon times and caught the better

weather, though the course still played difficult. Mark Brown of Tam

O'Shanter, playing in the morning, shot a superb 71 that was good for third

place, along with Darrell Kestner of Deepdale, who played in the afternoon.

Marc Turnesa, playing in the afternoon, was second with a 70. He was 5

under after 11 holes before playing the last seven in 3 over.

Four players were tied at 73 for the last four spots. Bob Longo, 52, the

head pro at the Seawane Club and Jamison Friedman of Southampton made birdie 4

on the first playoff hole to gain the spots. Raymond Floyd, son of 1986 U.S.

Open winner Ray Floyd, and Kirk Oguri, an assistant pro at Crab Meadow, were

eliminated in the playoff.

Cowan has won three New York State Opens on the Black Course, in 1997, '98

and 2000. He grew up in Hicksville and estimated that he has played the Black

Course at least 1,000 times. "Not all of them were 18 holes," he said.

"Sometimes, we had to stop because it was too dark."

He made the field for the Open at Congressional in 1997, missing the cut.

He was first alternate for the Open at Shinnecock in 1995, but no one pulled

out at the last minute to give him a spot. Now he takes his quest to

Westchester for the Open he wants most to be a part of.

"That would be just the best thing ever in my golf career," said Cowan, a

teaching pro this year at Great Rock Golf Club. "It's my home course and to be

playing an Open on it would be a dream come true, really."

U.S. Open

Local Qualifying

Fox Hill Country Club, Baiting Hollow. Ten players reached sectionals.

P.J. Cowan 69

Marc Turnesa 70

Mark Brown 71

Darrell Kestner 71

Greg Hurd 72

Mike Gilmore 72

Ron Faria 72

Rick Hartmann 72

*Bob Longo 73

*Jamison Friedman 73

*Won in playoff

New York Sports